Ultimate Guide on the Best Senior Dog Food

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Getting older can be ruff, simply put.

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It’s just as impactful for our dogs. They experience changes to their body’s systems, their health, and just their general ability to get up and get going. They can also encounter age-related conditions and diseases like dog arthritis. All of these things are natural, and unless you have access to a fountain of youth we don’t know about, you’ll have to alter your pup’s diet and wellness routine as they get older.

A proper diet can help reduce some of the age-specific problems and symptoms your dog can experience.

In this post, we’re going to get into the details on the fundamentals of an old dog diet, as well as the differences between senior dog food vs regular dog food and finally share our picks for the best dog food for senior dogs.

Senior Dog Diet Explained

It’s important to change and adapt your pup’s diet and wellness routines as they get older and find the best senior dog food for their needs.

That’s because senior dogs have unique needs they just didn’t have as puppies and young adults.

Specifically, senior dog foods can help address common issues our ageing pups face including those outlined in the table below. 

Common Issues of Senior Dogs Description
Dental issues
  • Dental issues include bad breath, bleeding and shrinking gums, and loose teeth
  • Can be hard to eat a proper diet when they cannot chew
Obesity
  • Dogs need less energy as they age, so it can be easy to overeat
  • Carrying around extra weight puts them at risk for diseases like arthritis and diabetes
Diabetes
  • Often caused by a high-fat diet and prolonged obesity
  • Can cause a laundry list of symptoms from incontinence to poor vision
Arthritis
  • Dog arthritis is a degenerative condition that causes painful and reduced movement thanks to inflammation and changes in the joints
  • Supporting the health of joints and cartilage with ingredients like glucosamine can be helpful in reducing symptoms
Heart Disease
  • Ageing causes valves, especially the mitral valve which keeps the blood moving forwards through the heart, to deteriorate and leak backwards into the left atrium
  • Causes extra strain on your dog’s heart and needs to be supported by lifestyle and dietary changes
Kidney Problems
  • As dogs age, their kidneys tend to lose their function
  • A diet low protein, low phosphorus, and not acidified helps kidney disease

But when exactly do you need to start thinking about these issues, and how that can necessitate a dietary change?

A dog who reaches the last 25% of its life (on average) is considered a senior pup. Generally, small breed dogs live longer than large and giant breed dogs, so these dogs are considered to be seniors when they reach the age of 8 to 10. In contrast, medium breed dogs are considered to be a senior at 10 years of age, and giant breeds are considered senior by age 7. Dogs deemed ‘geriatric’ have lived longer than the average lifespan for their breed and size.

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Once you know your dog is in their senior years or approaching them, it’s time to talk to your vet about what changes need to be made in order to support their changing needs as well as health challenges. Your vet will know best how to approach your specific dog’s needs and spot potential deficiencies.

Types of Senior Dog Food

types of senior dog food

Picky eaters rejoice! Just because your senior pup needs special nutrition doesn’t mean that they are going to be limited in their choices.

In fact, there are a wide array of senior dog food options for your ageing pup to choose from, including:

  1. Dry kibbles
  2. Wet and semi-moist foods
  3. Dietary supplements and treats
  4. Specialized diets, including the raw food diet

Curious about what they can each do for your dog? Read on to find out!

Dry Food

There is no doubt that dry food is the most affordable type of commercial dog food, and that’s why many dog owners choose it for pups young and old. In addition, it’s easy to store and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

The chewing of this crunchy dry kibble can also reduce tartar buildup in your dog’s mouth, helping keep their teeth healthy and strong. Be careful, though, as especially geriatric or older senior dogs may have trouble breaking this kibble down due to loose teeth or sensitive spots in their mouth. You can add a little bit of water to their dry food in order to make it easier to eat and to ensure your pup is able to safely chew their kibble.

You should read the label carefully before choosing a specific brand of dry food, and choose one that uses high protein and whole foods as its primary ingredients, free from fillers, preservatives, artificial flavouring and artificial colours.

Here are our picks for the best Canadian natural dog foods.

Canned or Wet Food

canned wet food

With a higher moisture content, and with a variety of flavours available, it’s no surprise that dogs love the palatability of wet food. And as they age, the soft, easy-to-eat consistency of this food can be even more beneficial.

Other benefits of using wet senior dog foods include:

  1. Promote weight loss or weight maintenance in obese senior dogs
  2. Easy to digest for sensitive stomachs
  3. Higher moisture content is beneficial for avoiding dehydration
  4. Easy to eat for senior dogs with damaged or missing teeth

Additionally, wet senior dog foods are great as they have a long shelf life and are easy to find in any supermarket. The major caveat of these kinds of foods is that they don’t always include the protein that your pup needs. What you need to make sure, especially in a senior dog diet, is that the food you choose provides enough digestible protein. Proteins that can’t be digested will pass through your dog’s system without becoming absorbable nutrients, rendering the food they consume less than useful.

Specialty Diets

Everything from tummy troubles to arthritis, diabetes and kidney problems can lead dog owners to pursue a special diet for their little furball.

Non-traditional pet diets, such as the raw dog food diet, have become more mainstream, and stem from the rising interest in pet wellness that has exploded in the last decade. Pet parents want to ensure their furry family member isn’t getting a diet packed full of preservatives and artificial flavours, and that they can be in better control of their health.

And while the science is out on what the real benefits of these kinds of alternatives are, many pet parents see success from modifying their senior dogs’ diets. Especially when working in close conjunction with veterinarians, a specialty or alternative diet may be one way for your senior dog to get the nutrients they need to feel good in their golden years.

The table below outlines a few of the most pup-ular alternative diet options out there, and what they may look like for your senior dog. 

Specialty Senior Dog Diet Food Description
Raw Food Diet
  • A typically homemade (though some store-bought options exist) dog food diet that contains only uncooked meats, fruits, and vegetables
  • Can be customized to the needs of the dog, and help those with allergies and food sensitivities avoid commercial mixes containing wheat
  • Not always a safe option for both humans and dogs, and can be both expensive and inaccessible to many pet owners due to the rigour of sourcing quality ingredients. Your vet must be consulted before you try this senior dog diet
Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
  • Like in human diets, dog vegan and vegetarian diets do not use animal products to varying degrees
  • Involves homemade or store-bought meals that contain no animal products
  • Minimal research has been done, and vets warn a dog’s digestive tract is not designed for a diet like this
Freeze-Dried Foods
  • By removing moisture, freeze-dried dog food has a long shelf life
  • Comes in a number of types and varieties for different dog diets
  • Incorporating freeze-dried food into a dog’s diet can be done on its own, in the form of treats or mixed with food
  • Can be a convenient and safe way to try a raw food diet for senior dogs
Packaged Fresh Meals (Refrigerated Pet Food)
  • Often contains human-grade ingredients, free from artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives
  • Meat, fruits and vegetables, rice, and eggs are common ingredients in this ready to serve meal format
  • Requires refrigeration
  • Available in subscription formats, in coolers at pet and big-box stores

Keep in mind that these diets have not often been studied by professionals nor recommended by vets, and may not be the best option for every senior dog diet.

Dietary Supplements

dietary supplements

At different times in our lives, and in our pets’, an extra boost from a nutritional supplement can mean the difference between being healthy or being ill.

Senior dogs often need more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. And as they age, things like supplements designed to support these changing needs can fill in any gaps in nutrition that aren’t being provided in their senior dog food alone.

Commonly added nutrients to a senior dog diet include:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • MSM
  • Antioxidants
  • DHA
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics

The thing is, even senior dog foods that contain some elements we listed above don’t always contain enough of the nutrients to be truly valuable to your dog.

That’s why many pet parents choose to incorporate a supplement like Integricare’s TRI-ACTA into their senior dog diet.

TRI-ACTA and TRI-ACTA H.A. work to support your senior pup’s joints, bones, and tissues using key ingredients including two types of glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and hyaluronic acid. Each of these ingredients plays an important role in reducing inflammation, repairing and protecting cartilage, and most importantly to your achy arthritic pup, reducing pain.

A joint supplement like Integricare’s line of TRI-ACTA for pets can mean the difference between a bouncy, happy pup and a slow, sore senior. And with pharmaceutical-grade components that have been third-party lab tested, you know that what you’re putting into your dog’s dinner bowl every day is safe, effective, and therapeutic. We recommend starting your younger pups with regular strength TRI-ACTA and switching to TRI-ACTA H.A. (which offers them an extra mobility boost thanks to hyaluronic acid) as they reach senior status.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.

Consult your veterinarian if you think your pet may be deficient in any vitamin or nutrient before you start using supplements for your senior dog diet.

Senior Dog Food vs Regular Dog Food

Now you may be wondering like many pet parents often do as dogs age, “does my furball really need special food as they age? Or can I keep feeding them the same food they have had for years?”

The short answer is no, you don’t have to change anything about what you’re feeding them unless your dog or your vet gives you an indication their food simply isn’t working for them anymore.

Sometimes that is due to dental issues, where your pup can no longer chow down like they used to, and are losing weight due to the lack of caloric intake. Other times, your adult dog food is too calorie-rich, creating an obesity problem for your dog.

It’s when these needs need to be addressed that you know it’s time to change their food.

In the table below, we have gathered the information you need to know about the differences between senior dog food and regular dog food.

Key Difference in Senior Dog Food Considerations
Adjustments in Nutrient Profiles
  • Protein amounts may need to increase for senior dogs as a senior dog’s protein stores turn over more rapidly
  • Struggling to keep weight is a common issue in senior dogs, and adding fat to their diet can help. Reducing fat in diets of overweight seniors is also a consideration
  • Fibre, particularly mixed fibres like psyllium, can be added to help ease common gastrointestinal issues in senior dogs like constipation
  • Less calorie density is often needed in older dogs, as they are less active than young dogs, though those struggling to maintain weight may need more caloric intake
More Easily Digestible
  • Dogs may develop difficulty in digestion as they age due to common conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and colitis
  • Other changes in their digestive system due to age may affect their intestines, colon and gut bacteria, therefore impacting digestion
  • Senior dog foods often contain added fats and prebiotics to help remedy these problems
Easier on Teeth
  • Due to loss of teeth, or other dental issues, senior dogs may not be able to chew kibble in the same way that young dogs do
  • Soft foods, such as canned, wet or semi-moist foods, can be easier to chew
  • Other additives to senior dog food are focused on reducing plaque and tartar to stop teeth from falling out or becoming damaged
Addition of Joint Health Supplement
  • All senior dogs are at risk of developing arthritis, though overweight or obese dogs are more likely to develop it as they age.
  • Ingredients like chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs have been shown to help reduce the effects of arthritis on senior dogs’ bodies over time
  • Many dog foods contain these ingredients, but a dog joint supplement is the best way to help combat arthritis symptoms
Added Brain Health Ingredients
  • Memory and learning abilities may diminish as dogs age
  • Ingredients like MCTs (a type of fat), antioxidants like beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acid may help improve brain health in senior dogs and are often included in senior dog foods

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

5 Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs

Alright, it’s time to get to the meat of this matter — pardon the pun.

There are so many choices out there today for your senior dog diet. You can choose from a myriad of different formats as we mentioned earlier, and there are tons of brands out there that claim a long list of benefits.

But how do you see past the claims and choose the right one for your special senior?

Not to worry! We’ve compiled a list of the 5 best dog food for senior dogs plus the best dietary supplement for senior dogs so you can skip the hours of research, and get right to making your pup feel their best.

Best Senior Dry Dog Food

Hills Dry Food

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First up, on our list of best senior dog foods we’ve got a classic dry kibble option. Hill’s Science Diet Senior Vitality Adult Senior 7+ Dry Dog Food is perfect for ageing pups who like to chow down on dry kibble, but want the health benefits of senior dog food.

In addition to being easy to digest, this dry food is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to promote the health of your dog’s coat during its senior years. Using this combination of ingredients, senior dogs can benefit from improved brain function, improved social interaction with others, and increased energy throughout the day.

Just be careful to make sure your pup can handle the hard kibble and doesn’t have any dental issues that could get in the way of their dining experience.

* Priced $82.99 CAD as of March 2022

Best Senior Wet Dog Food

simply nourish wet food

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Next up on the list of Best Senior Dog Foods, we have Simply Nourish’s Pate Senior Wet Dog Food. If you’re looking for soft, easy-to-eat senior dog food, then this may be perfect for you!

A great-tasting wet food made with fresh real chicken, this food helps meet your senior dog’s nutritional needs by providing a delicious taste that’s as nutritious as it is tasty. It features carrots, peas, brown rice flour, barley, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes among other ingredients, and reviewers say even picky eaters enjoyed this meal.

Be aware that this is a single-serve can and may end up becoming a costly choice for you and your senior pup in the long run.

* Priced $1.99 CAD per can as of March 2022

Best Senior Dog Supplements

integricare TRI-ACTA HA

Offering you an easy to serve powder format, Integricare’s TRI-ACTA H.A. is perfect for supplementing a senior dog’s diet.

This formula contains four key joint health ingredients ideal in a senior dog diet:

  1. Chondroitin to prevent further cartilage degradation
  2. MSM to relieve joint pain and inflammation
  3. Glucosamine to repair cartilage in joints
  4. Hyaluronic Acid to improve overall mobility as well as the viscosity of synovial fluid

In addition to containing those powerful ingredients, TRI-ACTA H.A. is 100% active ingredients and no filler, so you can rest assured your special senior is getting exactly what they need, and no yucky fillers to irritate sensitive stomachs. Plus, TRI-ACTA H.A. is a Health Canada approved Low-Risk Veterinary Health Product, containing pharmaceutical-grade components in a small, but therapeutic dosage. That way, your senior is more likely to accept the supplement and you save money.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.

* Priced $27.99 – $79.99 CAD as of March 2022

Best Large Breed Senior Dog Food

Blue buffalo large breed

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Senior Dog  is a senior dog food formulated for the health and well-being of ageing dogs, containing natural and wholesome ingredients that are specifically targeted at seniors’ nutritional needs.

It’s one of our picks for the best senior dog food thanks to its ingredient list, or should we say what isn’t on the list. It touts an ingredient list that has no artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, corn, wheat, soy or meat by-product meals. It does also contain glucosamine and chondroitin to maximize the health of joints in large breed seniors. Reviewers note large breed dogs enjoyed the blend, though some did note digestive challenges and tummy troubles for sensitive seniors.

* Priced $54.99 CAD as of March 2022

Best Diet Dog Food for Seniors

nutrience diet senior

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Our final choice for the best senior dog foods is this weight management kibble from Nutrience. If your senior dog needs to shed a few extra pounds, then this option could be right for you!

The low-fat formula helps limit weight gain in older dogs. It contains the body compound L-Carnitine to aid in fat conversion and help maintain lean muscle mass, and a triple fibre blend to increase your pup’s satiety. It also offers a specialized digestive aid and is a totally gluten-free formula for pet owners trying to avoid wheat in their senior dogs’ diet.

* Priced $23.99 CAD as of March 2022

Support Your Senior Dog’s Diet Today

healthy dog

You know you want your dog to be as healthy and happy as they can be, for as long as possible. After all, dogs are an important part of the family and deserve to have the comforts and support that make their senior years enjoyable.

And the best comfort and support you can give your ageing pup? Joint supplements like Integricare’s TRI-ACTA for pets. With pure, therapeutic ingredients that you can trust backed by over two decades of experience, Integricare is the best choice for supporting a senior dog diet. 

Find out more about our products by checking out our frequently asked questions, and if those don’t answer your questions, we would be happy to help if you would like to contact us.